Post-Operative (After Surgery) General Instructions

Wound dressing

  • Following surgery, keep the wound clean and dry.
  • The dressing should be removed and wounds covered with adhesive bandages on the first or second day after surgery.
  • Do not remove the paper strips or cut any of the visible sutures.
  • Reapply the ace wrap, if applicable, for 5-7 days to control swelling.
  • Wounds should be kept dry for 48 hours.
  • Unless otherwise instructed, the 5th day after surgery the wound may be exposed in the shower, taking care not to scrub the area.
  • The wound should not be submerged in a bathtub or pool until the sutures are removed.


  • It is very important to apply ice for the first 5-7 days after surgery.
  • While the post-op dressing is in place, application of ice should be continuous.
  • Once the dressing is removed on the first or second day, ice should be applied for 20-minute periods, 3-4 times per day.
  • Care must be taken with ice to avoid frostbite.


  • Follow weight bearing instructions you were given at discharge.
  • Crutches or a cane may be necessary to assist walking.
  • Elevate the operated limb elevation for the first 72 hours to minimize swelling.


  • The anesthetic drugs used during your surgery may cause nausea for the first 24 hours.
  • If nausea occurs, drink only clear liquids (i.e., Sprite or 7-up).
  • The only solid food that should be eaten is dry crackers or toast.
  • If nausea and vomiting become severe or the patient shows sign of dehydration (lack of urination) please call the doctor or the surgery center.
  • A low-grade fever (100.5) is not uncommon in the first 24 hours, but is unusual beyond.
  • Please call the doctor with any temperature over 101.0 degrees.
  • If a spinal anesthetic was used, patients may suffer a spinal headache. Please call the surgery center should this occur and does not relieve the pain with ibuprofen or your pain medication.
  • You may take a baby aspirin (81 mg) daily until the sutures are removed in the office, as this may lower the risk of a blood clot developing after surgery.
  • Should severe pain in the affected limb or significant swelling of the joint occur, please call the doctor.

Pain medication

  • Local anesthetics (i.e., Novocaine) are put into the incision after surgery.
  • It is not uncommon for patients to encounter more pain on the first or second day after surgery. This is the time when swelling peaks.
  • Taking pain medication before bedtime will assist in sleeping.
  • It is important not to drink alcoholic beverages or drive while taking narcotic medication.
  • If you were prescribed narcotic medication (i.e., vicodin, hydrocodone, darvocet) you can supplement those medications with 200 mg or 400 mg of ibuprofen every 4-6 hours.
  • You should resume your normal medications for other conditions the day after surgery.


  • Most patients are able to drive if surgery does not involve their right leg as soon as they stop taking narcotic pain medication.
  • Driving while under the influence of narcotic pain medication is dangerous, illegal and greatly discouraged.
  • Returning to school or work also depends on the degree of postoperative pain and the demands of your job or classes.
  • Pain is generally a good guide as to whether you can return or not.


  • The doctor will need to re-examine you in 7-10 days after surgery. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.
  • If unexpected problems, emergencies or other issues occur and you need to talk to the doctor, call the cartilage center's administrative assistant. After hours our answering service will route your call to a physician who will be able to advise you concerning your problem.

Contact & additional information

View contact information for UK Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration

This information is not intended to replace specific instructions from your physician. 

Check with your doctor to make sure these instructions apply to your case. 


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